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December 06, 2001

Duval declares his major
By Dan Patrick

With a score of even par after 36 holes, David Duval appeared to be letting another major golf tournament go by without winning one. There were too many good golfers playing well ahead of him to pull out a victory. But Duval showed patience, one of the hallmarks of a champion. As it turns out, that even par score was close enough. Duval kept himself in it for the last two rounds and made the most of it. When you close a major tournament with 65-67, you've earned it.

David Duval
David Duval was solid in every aspect of his game on the weekend, particularly with the putter.

Duval has finished second twice at Augusta and third once. He's had a couple of top-ten finishes at the U.S. Open, and has actually won what many consider the fifth major, The Players Championship. Duval has had plenty of PGA tour victories, including three in a row at one point. Still, he seemed destined to play the runner-up role. Before his first win on tour, he had finished second seven times.

Then there was his final-round 59 at the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Duval has shown flashes of undeniable brilliance ever since he was an All-American at Georgia Tech. Duval has been an exceptional golfer for 10 years and he's only 29 years old. In fact, he is the only player other than Tiger Woods to be ranked No. 1 in the world since Woods first grabbed the spot in 1997.

But Duval has also crumbled at key times, none more evident than last year's British Open when he was three shots off the lead with 11 to play. He was in the last group with Woods at St. Andrews. Of course, Woods never found a bunker in 72 holes -- but what we will all remember is Duval struggling in the sand on the famous Road Hole with Woods watching from the fairway.

Duval has never offered any excuses. And I am not either, but he has had wrist and back problems. Still, this major victory was long overdue. Luckily for Duval, and us, 29 is actually a rather young age to win your first major. With today's technology and medical advances, a golfer's prime does not stop at 40. Duval has 21 years before he is even eligible to join his dad on the Senior Tour.

While Duval is obviously happiest about Sunday's result, two other guys have a vested interest in his accomplishment. Woods, the ultimate competitor, has gained a legitimate and credible rival at the majors. In golf, you are often defined by your competition and now Woods sees that one of his fellow players has taken it up a notch. And you know Woods sees that as a positive. He just got another reason to focus, to work, to hit another 50 balls on the range.

On the flip side, Phil Mickelson has to be kicking himself, cursing his luck. Now, the media horde will be asking Duval when he will win his next major. But they will still be asking Mickelson when he will win his first. Let's hope he uses Duval's victory as well as Woods and Duval will.

But David Duval will, obviously, get the most out of Sunday's win. He's too young and too good to not win another major. Especially when he has finally won the hardest one: the first.

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